Dutch Muslims Face Increased Discrimination Due to Anti-Money Laundering Laws
Rabin Baldewsingh, the national coordinator against discrimination and racism in the Netherlands, expressed concern on Friday about the rising discrimination Muslims face. He attributed this primarily to implementing the law intended to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism, known as the Wwft.
In an interview with the Dutch daily Trouw, Baldewsingh revealed that he has been receiving increasing reports from Muslims who have experienced discrimination, particularly during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The obligatory almsgiving in Islam, or zakat, involves collecting charity money to help the less fortunate. During Ramadan, funds are frequently raised in mosques and at iftars, and dinners are held to break the daily fast.
Baldewsingh stated that Muslims had been targeted by banks’ compliance departments, which have labeled them as potential suspects of money laundering or terrorism. These individuals must then prove the source of their money before transactions are processed. He called for an investigation into this issue.
One example cited by Baldewsingh involves a businessperson whose surname is common in Pakistan and coincidentally matches that of an al-Qaida affiliate. This individual faced further scrutiny during the funding application process for a new restaurant.
Baldewsingh urged the Ministry of Finance to take responsibility for the issue. “They impose this law on financial institutions, but it is used in an improper way,” he said. He encouraged the government to assess the scope of the problem and engage in dialogue with financial institutions.
Last year, the Muslim Rights Watch Netherlands Foundation established a “reporting point for victims of bank profiling.” Before its launch, the foundation had already received 105 reports. Ironically, the foundation faced discrimination when Regiobank issued a negative recommendation to open an account, stating that “religious organizations do not fit the target group of the bank.”
Under the Wwft, banks are required to report “unusual” transactions or face high fines. The Dutch Banking Association (NVB) insists that discrimination is not acceptable during the implementation of the law. A spokesperson told Trouw, “Ethnic, religious or other backgrounds of customers are not grounds for increased customer scrutiny.”
Baldewsingh expressed serious concerns about the impact of institutional racism and discrimination on Dutch Muslim communities. He cited a study by the Social and Cultural Planning Office, which found that in 2020, 55% of Muslims regularly experienced discrimination, compared to 27% of the general population.
This figure increases to 69% when including those uncertain if they have faced discrimination.
Baldewsingh pointed out that 67% of religious discrimination reports filed with the police in 2021 were related to Muslims, and the figure was 65% for municipal provisions against discrimination.
“I’m shocked by these numbers,” Baldewsingh said. “But I encounter a lot of indifference. Muslim discrimination is not punished. It follows that people drop out. Especially young Muslims. That must not happen, they are our future.”